Tuesday, 10 January 2012

'On a Bank Beside a Willow' by William Boyce

A place to dream

One of the most beautiful songs I know is 'On a Bank Beside a Willow' by William Boyce. I don't teach it a great deal because it is very difficult technically, mostly because of the large interval leaps of 6th's 7th's and Octaves. These wide leaps need so much vocal and muscular support, yet the overall style of the song is pastoral, legato and flowing. Tricky indeed to combine the use of all that hard work whilst seeming to float the magical melody.

In many ways it is so akin to ballet. So much energy and yet so light and effortless in what we see, and in the case of the song, what we hear. The song's melody soars and falls majestically, and is so full of passion, yet in a late Baroque song, written in an era when coolness and vocal mastery were almost more important that heart on the sleeve emotion.

It is the story of a girl who was loved by Damon a Greek god. More than that I cannot find ! I'm not sure that really matters, but the words are by Dryden and the music simply oozes the dropping tears of Aminta for the loss of Damon.

I was teaching it today, the first time in 10 years, as I have not had a high soprano with a purity of vocal tone, and the stamina to cover all the technical bases, so to speak.

Having said all that, my pupil L, did almost need mouth to mouth recusitation by the time we had finished! Good for the body, good for the soul and a work out above and beyond the call of duty!

I really enjoyed it!

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